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Sustainability and Sustainable Living

June 28th, 2010


While the term ‘sustainability’ is broad its core meaning is: to maintain or keep in existence. It applies to both the environmental world and the existence of human beings. Environmentally sustainability applies to the continuous diversity and productiveness of biological systems. For humans it is the ability to maintain well being for our current generation and generations to come. One depends on the other.

One big factor that is changing the way people think about sustainability is global warming. Global warming, the increase in the average temperature of earth’s near-surface air and oceans, is in part caused by the increase of greenhouse gases, which are a result of human activity. One example is deforestation. Global warming and recent natural disasters have caused people to think more about sustainability and sustainable living.

‘Sustainable living’ is based on decisions, whereby an individual or a group of individuals, such as a family or society, attempt(s) to reduce their use of the earth’s natural resources, as well as his/her own resources, in order to meet economical, environmental, and societal needs. Also known as ‘carbon footprint,’ an individual or group can decide to alter things in their life for the betterment of the planet’s resources, such as reducing energy consumption, diet, or transportation. Green businesses also choose and decide to conduct their practices in alignment with sustainable living by incorporating sustainable design and development into their business practices, such as a farmer who grows sustainable foods.

Ever since 1854, when the earliest piece of literature to distinctively address the idea of sustainable living—Henry David Thoreau’s Walden—there has been an awareness to meet economical, environmental, and societal needs without jeopardizing these three needs for future generations to come. Henry David Thoreau was one of the earliest environmentalists who spent a great amount of time contemplating nature and our impact on our world.

It is in meeting these three needs—economical, environmental, and societal—and keeping them in balance that result and will result in humankind’s ability to maintain its existence. Each individual’s impact and the population of a community, as well as the resources being used, renewable or not, affect the total environmental impact in which we live.

For many people, making the switch to a sustainable lifestyle can be overwhelming, with not being sure where to start. From switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to riding a bicycle to run errands to preparing family meals made with organic foods from a garden, there are many easily incorporated practices that can help people live a more sustainable lifestyle. Do you incorporate sustainable living practices into your life and on a continuous basis? If so, what changes have you made in your lifestyle to lesson your carbon footprint? How did you begin to live more sustainably?

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Waste Not, Want Not

May 11th, 2010


How many times has this happened to you? You have a recipe that you want to make that calls for an ingredient that you do not have on hand. You buy the smallest package of said ingredient that you can find only to discover later that the rest has gone bad before you could use it all. In addition to leftover prepared foods, cheeses, fruits, herbs, and vegetables each make up a large portion of foods that end up going to waste while sitting on the counter or in the fridge. When you’re trying to stay within a budget, it’s easy to see how wasted food is wasted money. As hard as many of us attempt to pre-plan meals using what’s on hand or take advantage of our freezers it’s sometimes easier said than done.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans waste 30 percent of all edible food produced, bought, and sold in the U.S., and scientists at the University of Arizona and the National Institute of Health (NIH) estimate 40 percent or more. To add to this unfortunate situation, Environmental Protection Agency data suggests that rotting food may be responsible for about one-tenth of all anthropogenic (caused by humans) methane emissions. When rotting food decomposes in landfills a by-product is methane, which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide.

While throwing out a few salad greens here and there may seem harmless, in the long run, every bit of food-gone-bad adds up to a lot of wasted food and global warming woes.

One way that people can help reduce food waste is by growing their own herbs and vegetables. When you grow your own foods not only will you be able to enjoy foods free of pesticides and fertilizer, but you will also be able to use what is needed, when needed. Another positive side to this is that if a food grower has more, say, vegetables than they can use during the growing season, there is the opportunity to share the bounty with friends and neighbors. It’s a much better feeling than the one you get when you spend your hard-earned money at the grocery store just to have foods go bad.

For more in-depth information on food waste and easy-to-embrace solutions, read How to Wage War on Food Waste, from OnEarth, the award-winning environmental magazine.

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